BEND, Ore. - While many Oregon school districts are facing declining student enrollment numbers this fall, Bend-La Pine Schools enrollment continues to surge. As of Tuesday,, 16,860 students were enrolled in the district's 27 schools and programs, up 260 students from a year ago.
Student enrollment is up more than 1,000 students since the fall of 2009, when the district saw its first enrollment dip since 1986.
"Anecdotally, this growth represents about 40 classrooms of new students in just five years," said Superintendent Ron Wilkinson.
"I believe the overall high performance of our staff and students is attracting more families to Bend-La Pine Schools than ever before. Our students are outscoring their peers statewide on Oregon benchmarks and are well prepared to continue their education after high school," Wilkinson said.
"This continued enrollment growth is exciting and brings both opportunities and challenges," said Wilkinson. "These new families bring jobs and dollars to our community that help to keep our economy strong."
Wilkinson said the growth does create challenges as schools begin to reach their capacity. He notes that 17 of the district's 27 schools are near, or are over, capacity this fall.
"Our teachers have been very creative, moving classrooms into teacher work rooms and conference rooms to create additional learning spaces," he said. "The district also added four temporary classrooms this fall to help manage the increase in enrollment until new schools can be built."
In May, voters approved a school construction bond that will allow the construction of a new elementary and a new middle school as well as classroom improvements across the district. Wilkinson said that design is underway and the schools are expected to open as soon as the fall of 2015.
"We are thankful to voters who approved our request to add schools with the highest yes vote in history," he said. "The timing is just right to build new schools so that we can accommodate this enrollment growth."
Wilkinson adds that Portland State University's Center for Population Research estimates that Bend-La Pine Schools' growth trend will continue for the next decade. They estimate that enrollment will grow by nearly 3,000 students in that time period.
Bend-La Pine Schools is Oregon's sixth-largest school district.